Federal law has been established to ensure that if these children reach the foster care or adoption systems, they are met with a specific set of minimum standards throughout the process. However, federally recognized tribes throughout the state along with key state department stakeholders, had long experienced significant inconsistencies that were detrimental to the Tribes’ children.
While a large number of groups worked to develop ideas to address the problem, it wasn’t until MLC and the Huron Band Tribal Chairman became involved that a serious effort was waged within the Legislature.
An education gap existed within Michigan regarding the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA). The act was established at the federal level and was to be cascaded to the state level in cases of foster and adoption of Indian children. This disconnect resulted in oversights on the part of social workers and state courts in the handling of these cases, presenting an opportunity to introduce a state-level process to safeguard Indian foster and adopted children as they were placed into homes.
In addition to the Huron Band, approximately 25 other tribes and social service organizations had long contemplated an approach to address this need. As MLC was now engaged to provide support, the team created a strategic approach to pursue legislation and serve as counsel to guide the broader group throughout the process.
With MLC guiding the process, the Huron Band took ownership of driving action supporting the issue in Michigan. The Band was positioned at the forefront as the voice of not only its tribe but the collective groups with a vested interest in righting the wrongs in the foster care and adoption systems with regard to Indian children.
Through the strategic approach MLC developed, the team secured a bill sponsor and drafted a bill to formalize the enforcement of ICWA on the state level. The Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA) was introduced to overwhelming support, with nearly every major interest group involved in the child protection and judicial system on board with the legislation.
Michigan became one of the first states to enact a formalized process that reinforces ICWA at the state level, a success that was driven by MLC’s efforts to strategize, manage and activate the process of pursuing and passing the legislation.
More than 30 years in the making, MIFPA provides the consistent support and clarification of the state’s legal responsibilities under ICWA. As a result of the passage of the bill, Indian families – both those who are a part of the Huron Band and of other tribes – can put their trust in the foster care and adoption system and know that it has the same goal in mind: the preservation of Indian families in Michigan.
To learn how MLC can help you give a voice to your critical issues, contact the team.